Sunday, January 25, 2009

balancing act

Steve - I was charmed and gratified to read your very well written comment. All in all I believe we need to pay attention to the lessons of our lives and if we do we'll find our adventures. Little things mean a lot and I've never done anything too out of the way nor would I claim to have done. When I lived in Europe I knew of other young people who, thinking they were protected somehow, went off a little too far where their small riches were a temptation for those with nothing. Some were never seen again and I'd never have put my parents through the agony.

It's been a delight for me to post my paintings and other bits up here. It's nice to know people like them but since I've never been much of a fan of my own work it's extra nice to hear your educated opinions. The Adventure's Ink drawings wouldn't have happened without the blog environment and the only b&w I'd ever done was 'baby days' long ago. I love deco and being very familiar with the artists you named feel very flattered at the comparison. When I have a story in mind the drawings are done within a few days. Somehow I'm sure Valleton and Beardsley took longer and much more care, as did Blake and Tenniel.

I lived in Europe for several years after highschool. I had a job in London for a while but traveled as much as I could to places with galleries and old churches (where I made brass rubbings). I attended various art schools and modeled for classes since the tuition costs were more than my budget allowed. Would you believe one way airfare from Toronto to London cost $1500 in 1965? There weren't many tourists back then.

An epiphany happened during the time I spent in Paris when I made daily pilgrimages to the Louvre when the Mona Lisa was just another small canvas hanging on a wall among hundreds of other paintings. One afternoon I found myself all alone in a large underground gallery dumbfounded by the Michelangelo slave sculptures. I'd already marveled at the Pieta, which had been completed before he was 25, but the Dying Slave and the Rebellious Slave bowled me over. I don't know if you're familiar with them but they are extraordinary and I spent hours trying to absorb their meaning. I learned that living isn't about what we produce but about becoming. I need to paint because the process engenders more internal images than I can possibly capture but I see that as a gift and not an ego enhancement. Perhaps you know what I mean.

It wasn't so hard finding jobs and, since I'm somewhat antisocial, work provided a reason for spending time with people. Knowing I could pay my own way meant I could afford the supplies but didn't have to sell the results. That's not to say I didn't fall for my own hype a few times along the way. I'd get excited when a series was underway and start to think I could sell them and then be able to stay home and paint more. Sometimes it worked and I did meet some nice gallery owners but usually I ended up weighted down with professionally framed and glassed paintings nobody wanted to buy. They're easier to carry in a portfolio and I hate talking about them to potential buyers. I remember a two week series of phone calls from a young woman that went like this:

'What's behind that bush?'
'What do you think is behind the bush?'
'You painted it so you should know what's behind it.'
'I put the bush there because it was the only thing that fit.'
'That's not a very good reason.'

Crow's little niece, Beatrice, has a question for the day: How do you have Capitalism without capital?


linda said...

good question, beatrice! and I don't know...what a cute little bird. :)

susan, I really love this painting and the do you have the patience to sit and paint these borders? it's amazing, they look almost impossible to do! I don't know if you said how big this is but it's amazing anyway....she's really sweet with her little shoes, sitting like that! (I need to go back at more of the detail again but then I lose my comment so won't.)

the questions posed by the woman would have driven me insane by question are far more patient that I and this is one of the reason I don't sell my work...I used to when it was hooked rugs that I made but found the money took all the joy away ... the money holders think they somehow own you now and can begin to tell you exactly how to do what it is you do, only to their specs...not for me!

spending time down with those ancient works must have been amazing, almost scary ... I was pondering that and am actually not sure I would have wanted to be there! really interesting post today...many thanks for sharing a little bit more about you, that at least I haven't read yet.

linda said...

I went back and wanted to tell you how much I love the sky as well! :)

Lisa said...

Capitalism without capital? I think when people of a conservative bent speak of capitalism, they mean having thing rigged in their favor so they get to keep the capital. And the Capitol, for that matter.

Since I'm not an artist, I cannot even imagine the feelings I would have if someone was daft enough to ask me about what is behind a painted a bush, but I suspect I'd be charged with assault with a deadly canvas.

I still can think of a long list of reasons why your paintings would sell. And your black and white drawings are what first drew me in (no pun intended.)

susan said...

linda - I'm glad you like the sky because you know as well as I do how difficult they can be to paint in watercolor. I didn't say but it's in the 14x18 range as are most of them since I get nervous and tighten up working larger spaces. Sometimes I look forward to painting the borders before I'm half done with the main images so that has the effect of forcing me through the hard parts of the painting and overthinking. The borders are last and can be done at leisure - there's lots of underpainting and tinting going on.

I know what you mean about the money taking the fun out of the process. 'Can you do another one just like this but use these colors?' Jeez.

The strangest thing was being down there alone with them for so long and it was a huge space.

lisa - Yes, I think capitalism is just the name of the shop these days. We're a little too close to totalitarianism for comfort.

I got to the point with that woman of telling her to either buy the painting or not but to stop calling me. I could have used your help ;-)

Then you'll be glad to know there's another story on the way.. soonish, hopefully.

Mary Ellen said...

Well, Beatrice, you just borrow money from another country and hope they don't want it back if you fail. At least that's how it's been done in the last eight years.

Regarding the question about what's behind the bush, I would have told her there was a naked guy and if she looked really really close, you could see him through the leaves. And when she got real close to the canvas to look, I'd call her a pervert.

CDP said...

Beatrice is adorable.

Utah Savage said...

That Steve is one hell of a fine commenter.

I hate hearing how hard it is to deal with the commercial aspect of living by one's art, because I'm trying to sell mine.

I did have a couple of small shows when I was painting and I do remember getting asked to paint this particular subject in these colors to fit into someone's newly redecorated foyer. Nice that you can say, I'm sorry it's a one of a kind piece. Deal or no deal.

I do like the answer to the what's behind the bush. A naked man of course.
It does kind of make you want to do a little therapy for the idiot who asks the question.

Lover of Life said...

I have always admired anyone with artistic talent, since I have zero. I love good artwork and have several pieces that mean a lot to me. Your border on this painting is beautiful, as is the painting itself. Don't let difficult people keep you from doing what is obviously a gift.

Liberality said...

lots of yin and yang--but mostly yin to my way of thinking.

susan said...

nunly - They're leaning on the shaky rail of conviction that just because the us dollar is the world's reserve currency, the countries who own dollars won't dump them. Things are bad when that's the only plan.

The naked guy answer would have been a good one. Too late now.

cdp - She is :-)

utah - I'm convinced it's a bit different with books, although still not easy, once a publisher or even a good literary agent are ready to take on your novel. I think you'll do fine.

lol - I've slowed down the pace but will never stop the process. I just don't work to some arbitrary goal.

lib - Definitely too much yin.

Seraphine said...

i love balancing act. it's a beautful strong drawing. it's awesome, and i feel privileged to be able to see it.
capitalism, of course, isn't dead. the world is in recapitalization mode from the debt "excesses" of the past. there's capital out there, but people/companies/banks are hoarding it instead of spending, investing or loaning it.

La Belette Rouge said...

The person who asked the question about the brush was not REALLY listening to your answer. 'It's the only thing that would fit." That tells us so much about how carefully you consider and listen yourself about what is right for you and for the work. I hear an artist who is absolutely authentic and sensitive to her impulses.

Liberality said...

I'm cool with the yin--the world has too much yang if you ask me!

susan said...

sera - You Costa Rican zip-line trip reminded me of her so I took a picture.

Oh dear, recapitalization.. I'm very concerned about the CDS's that are still proliferating. Too much of the money is still being used to pay off the people betting against the banks.

belette - What a very sweet thing to say. It never occurred to me to see it that way but what you say is true - everything does have to be in its place. I just don't use logic to do so.

lib - You're right about that but I have to keep the tiny bit I do have carefully fed just so I don't melt away :-)

lindsaylobe said...

How do you have Capitalism without capital? By Capitalism I take it one accepts the definition of capitalism as a system in which private capital or wealth is used in the production or distribution of goods and services; private owners of production for profit. Capital then is the net savings and investments that make it possible so you can’t have sustainable capitalism without capital unless you borrow more and more which places that debt and interest burden on future generations.

I am reminded of the story of the Good Samaritan who was obviously a capitalist rich enough to pay for the hotel costs of the unfortunate beaten traveler who was left for dead but rescued by the Good Samaritan. The Good Samaritan’s credit Rating was also well established in that “On the morrow, when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to The host, and said unto him, “Take care of him: and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee”.

Best wishes

Randal Graves said...

I need to paint because the process engenders more internal images than I can possibly capture but I see that as a gift and not an ego enhancement.

Exactly. Whatever we create is merely a snapsnot of the neverending process.

Mezamashii said...

What a beautiful piece! We moved back to Canada in 2007- I love it.

La Belette Rouge said...

Last time I was here the baby crow, Beatrice, picture did not post. So now that I have seen it I have to ask:
1. Did you paint that?
2. Is it for sale?
3. How much?

susan said...

lindsay - The Good Samaritan story is is an excellent example of the well intentioned capitalist. It's a famous bible story because such a person was rare a couple of thousand years ago too. Not that there aren't good people around now but they're not running the show.

randal - It's true that the reward must be part of the process. That's why I'm always more interested in the next thing.

mezamashii - I'll come by for a chat about your experience.

belette - Now you know it's a Rudi Hurzlmeier I neglected to identify. She's way too cute for me to have invented :-)

Gary said...

Great post Susan - I love the 'bush' story.

susan said...

gary - Nice to see your feet again. I hope you're someplace warmer and drier than this place :-)

Pagan Sphinx said...

Yes. As Linda said your borders are so lovely.

She looks so happy in her skin...and silks. :-)

Oh, and I love the adorable little crow with the cherries in its mouth. I adore cherries. My favorite fruit. And, of course, I have a thing for crows. ;-)

susan said...

pagan - That's funny. Cherries are my favorite fruit as well. I know Crow has a thing for you too so I try not to be jealous :-)

Pagan Sphinx said...

I'm sure Crow and I were acquainted in another life. :-)

Steve Emery said...

You know, it's a good thing, when I get behind on my blog reading, that I go back and read all the way to the last post I read the last time I was there. Otherwise I might have missed this, and that would have been a shame. I'm grateful my comment inspired a post.

And I'm with Randal - that quote he plucked out of the post is EXACTLY the one that seemed to be in red letters to me, too. It's about what's next, and painting is how we go there. And the more we make, the more there is to make. The countryside of the artistic heart just gets larger and more varied the farther in you go.

I've collected this painting now, too, in my growing "Susan" folder. I love the way the silky drapery augments the beauty of her breasts, without hiding a thing. And I LOVE the warm shadow in the crook of her right arm, and the shadows that define her knees and the long bones of her legs.

I'm with Linda, too, the sky is wonderful, and I also shook my head thinking how tough it is to keep it all wet long enough to get the effect you want AND make the edges perfect.

susan said...

steve - I'm glad you found the post too ,although, considering my infrequent new ones, it's likely to have stayed visible for a while.

It's funny but I don't go through the supercharged imaginary visuals nearly so much with the silks or anything else as I do with the paintings. That landscape must be on an altogether different track.

Steve Emery said...

I admire and enjoy your silks - the glimpses you've given us of them (and others have, as well, when they've received them as gifts) - but I did get the sense that the work there is more decorative. The images are adorning the finished piece, rather than being a finished piece in their own right. So they haven't got the same depth and breadth as the paintings. That all seemed right to me - in proportion.

Steve Emery said...

Goodness - I forgot to comment on the Michelangelo slaves! I do know of these pieces, though only from photos and Art History classes. I think they are pieces he always had in mind and only got to late in his life... They are startlingly modern, and unlike anything else. I was deeply moved by even the photos of them (when I was a teenager) - I can't imagine being in front of the originals and alone, and in such an underground kind of place. It gives me goosebumps imagining it.

He was an unusual genius. I can see why some say he has no equal in the history of art.

susan said...

steve - You're right about that. Paintings are much more creatively demanding. To tell you the truth I'm not painting so much lately simply because I can't focus for long enough periods. The silks and jewelry pieces can be safely returned to after an absence.

The funny thing about finding myself alone with the Slaves was knowing immediately who made them in spite of there being no signs on them. I've read the only work he ever signed was the Pieta and he was annoyed at himself for that. It was a unique experience and a memory I treasure.

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